Yoke's Foods kicked off the turkey-buying season this month with large colorful signs -- in Spanish and English -- touting Butterball turkeys.
"This will be the first time we've done that," said Ken Chapin, director of meat and seafood at the Spokane, Wash.-based chain. "These are big signs, 3 1/2 feet tall. Whatever we can do to make customers more comfortable, help them understand, that's fine."
In Wisconsin, the Piggly Wiggly stores have been recognized for aggressively promoting the Certified Angus Beef line in the meat departments. A handful of stores in the Kenosha and Racine, Wis., areas will introduce labels in Spanish for CAB products, probably early next year.
"In Racine and Kenosha, the Hispanic population has increased," said Joe White, director of meat and seafood for Fresh Brands, which operates about 100 corporate and independent franchise stores under the Piggly Wiggly banner. "We employ some of those folks. They tell us what we need to have. Word-of-mouth with Hispanics is probably the strongest mode of advertising you can get. If they know where something is, they'll come in and buy it. Ethnic shoppers are very brand loyal. Price is secondary."
Whether it's a simple sign with a snappy message, or a detailed chart showing various cuts of meat, Spanish-language literature for consumers and associates is turning up in lots of new places. Meat marketers think the materials work.
Signs in Spanish are nothing new at Butterball. The company rolled them out a decade ago. When Thanksgiving approaches, retailers across the country put up the signs near the turkey displays. It's part of a comprehensive effort to reach Hispanics that includes bilingual product inserts, a 1-800 turkey help line and advertising in Spanish. Over the past year, Butterball launched a Web site in Spanish and plans to add a feature to the site that will allow consumers to swap recipes.
"The response has been great," said Torri Johnson, senior marketing manager for Butterball Turkey, Chicago, a division of Cargill. "I have reason to believe the efforts are paying off. I can look at the overall brand performance. Our share is up vs. last year. The whole turkey category specifically. The Hispanic market is one element helping our brand continue to grow."
Johnson had no data on buying preferences, but based on anecdotal evidence, Hispanics tend to buy fresh raw meats -- whole turkeys, bone-in and boneless roasts. "They buy raw meats vs. more convenient items," she said. "Hispanic consumers are confident cooks. They're used to cooking raw meats, and larger portions of meats. I think [turkey] is very popular with the Spanish audience."
Certified Angus Beef for years has provided retailers with Spanish-language product labels, consumer brochures and other materials. The Wooster, Ohio-based company rolled out a bilingual training program for retailers this year. A growing number of food stores are using the materials, said Deanna Walenciak, director of sales and marketing at CAB, which sells its products in more than 4,000 supermarkets.
"Over the past year, the number of requests has really risen," Walenciak said. "Retailers see the potential there. More of our retailers are making the materials available."
There's still a lot to be learned about targeting Hispanic consumers, and some lessons are pretty basic. Marketers at CAB learned it pays to be careful. Two years ago at the beef company's annual conference, the topic of reaching Hispanics came up during a session for retailers.
"One message that was loud and clear through that session was don't just translate and think everything translates word for word," Walenciak said. "As you prepare to translate materials you have to be careful. They have to be proofread by someone who knows the language. We've been meticulous in our proofing process."
Hispanics are a potentially lucrative audience for meat marketers. According to "U.S. Hispanics -- Insights Into Grocery Shopping Preferences & Attitudes," a 2002 study from the Food Marketing Institute:
- Hispanics consume beef four to five times per week vs. two to three times per week for the general population.